Neumes or Modern Notation?
  • a1437053a1437053
    Posts: 198
    We're trying to start a pre-choir summer program. Billed as a "Catholic Arts Enrichment Program", our children will be exposed to the English ICEL and other English plainchant. (The powers that be forbid Latin, since "kids won't want to sing that stuff".)

    Given that we'd like these seeds to bloom into a full "reform of the reform" program one day, my question to this forum is:

    1. Do we exclusively use the square notation?
    2. Do we use both square and modern notation? If both, what do you recommend the balance between the two be to start? As it progresses?

    ---I have followed many of the discussions about this in this forum, but most of them are more specific to the type of program used to teach the chant, or sacred music.
    ---A cantor has questioned my absolute insistence on square notation ONLY (the eventual goal to use the Bartlett materials and other traditional sources). Adam Bartlett recently gave his explanation for his choice of square notes in the Cafe comments, which is good enough for me. This particular cantor thinks I'm limiting the children (I don't disagree) and possibly alienating professional musicians who may feel uncomfortable with the square notes (again, I will grant this point). She is equally competent in both notations, but I think she sees the end result a music education program, whereas I see a Catholic Liturgical music program).

    For your responses, thank you in advance.
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,114
    In general, here's what I do:

    In most cases, I give chant to the choir in square notes. For the congregation, It's about 50/50, depending on the situation. If it's a one-time-event, I will often do modern notation, though I sometimes do neumes too. If it's an ongoing situation, I tend to gravitate toward square notes in most cases, both because it helps them learn it, and also, it's simply easier for me. With my current computer setup, I can engrave neumes about 3x-5x faster than engraving the same chant in modern notation.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,847
    For a short program teaching church music, square notation is easier for kids than round-note: it doesn't involve accidentals or key signatures.

    With it, you can teach intervals and triads and the major scale, and introduce the sound of modes, and handy skills like psalm-tone singing, so that over a summer, the kids could learn to sing Compline, for example.

    Notions that kids won't want to use square notes or sing Latin are just cases of people transferring their own inhibitions onto the kids. (Why? Because old people like them have old, tired brains that aren't eager to learn new things, even easy new things.) Language learning is an ideal subject for young kids, though of course you won't have time to really teach Latin.
  • Neumes, neumes, and only neumes.
    Chonak's observations are spot on, and, children really enjoy the solfege by which they can discern intervals.

    Too bad about your adult children who think the child children wouldn't like Latin. They would very likely find it delightful... if YOU were the one presenting it. There should be a balance between English and Latin.
    Thanked by 2Gavin a1437053
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,082
    I have no problems with square notes, but am not allowed to give them to the congregation. My choir doesn't care for them either. Consequently, I use round notes.

    If I were teaching notes and could do as I liked, I would teach both round and square notes. Huge quantities of choral music are written in round notes, so only learning square notes would limit singers to mostly chant. I think both are needed.
  • mrcoppermrcopper
    Posts: 647
    As long as the notation does not reinforce the notion that all music is diatonic in one tonal center and in the western piano-organ tradition, and all music is speech-based and arhythmic. A string of rhythmless round notes without accidentals or key signature (ie, implicitly forever in the key of C/a minor) on a modern staff is a kind of compromise that - an opinion -- seems the worst choice of the three.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,082
    It's not a perfect world and most church choirs are not anywhere near perfection, either. Everything is a compromise of some kind.
  • Neumes.
    Thanked by 1noel jones, aago
  • G
    Posts: 1,387
    IME children really love the idea of esoteric knowledge that most of their elders don't possess, and square notes fill the bill.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,286
    Neumes
  • PhatFlute
    Posts: 219
    Most people I see don't know neums, so I think regular music is better. I like chant and think it is beautiful, really beautiful. But people don't read chant,
    Ph
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,114
    But people don't read chant


    And that'll never change if directors don't start teaching people how by actually giving them neumes.
  • PhatFlute
    Posts: 219
    I must also say I do not have many experiences with chant and neums
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,286
    PhatFlute

    We all at one point in our lives said, 'I don't read chant'. However, it was the insistance of our colleagues who said, 'wait a minute!'. Chant is what we are SUPPOSED to be reading FIRST! The rubrics of 'modern notation' is actually one that is a farce. Modern notation is in a sense, anti-vocal, mechanical verses musical, lacks nuance and more. Don't get me wrong. I like modern notation for writing out polyphony, and I grew up learning it, so it really is like my 'first musical language', native, if you will. But chant really should be the native language of liturgical musicians, and we have been deprived of that luxury all because the world thinks it can redefine a 'better' way. Well that is nonsense. The art of chant notation has developed for hundreds and hundreds of years. It IS the art of writing vocal music par excellence. We don't espouse throwing out modern notation, but certainly don't espouse NOT learning chant notation.
    Thanked by 1PhatFlute
  • PhatFlute
    Posts: 219
    I see, I think I maybe agree now! I keep my mind open - thank you for opening me up. Chant and neums are actually easier to read, maybe.
  • Neumes, hands down. Easy to learn, easy to read and sing.
    Thanked by 1Ben Yanke
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,144
    The art of chant notation has developed for hundreds and hundreds of years. It IS the art of writing vocal (monophonic) chant music par excellence.
    Fixed.

    Try writing Bruckner's Locus iste or Mozart's Ave verum corpus or Palestrina's Sicut cervus or Josquin's Ave Maria ... Virgo serena in chant notation. Chant notation is the ne plus ultra for chant. It is just plain wrong for polyphony.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • kenstb
    Posts: 358
    I agree. Neumes are the way to do it. One issue that comes up in my corner of the world (NYC area) is that the adults seem to think that Latin and square notes are beyond them (this is particularly true for those artisans who play but have no musical training), and they infect the young ones with this fear. I prefer to invite the parents to join the lessons on neumes and the results have been pretty good. Part of the challenge for us is to dispel the notion that neumes and Latin are the province of people with more talent and intelligence than the ones we work with.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,082
    I have no plans to program the Franck Psalm 150 sung from neumes. They are worthless for anything but chant. They are best for chant, but not all sacred music is chant. I still hold that singers need to know both forms of notation.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen PhatFlute
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,286
    singers need to know both forms of notation.


    Sad, but ignored.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Friends, I am becoming increasingly weary over the lack of coherency on the whole forum of late. If Chonak or someone else needs to lecture me about proprieties, go for it.
    Try Ecclesiastes everyone, then take your choice of chill pill or poison.
    Here's my beef: at some point, many of us here, ostensibly to help mentor newbies like Phil, still insist in advancing absolutism in any form as viable solutions to all concerns.
    Here's my deal- none of your absolutes will in any identical measure, solve the issues of seekers here. Your personal success in your backyard does not validate the necessary mandates of legislation, none of us posesses the wisdom to insist on these silly absolutes, whether about neumes/standard notation or about frequency cycles of A and intonational theorems.
    I deplore the use of the forum to advance anythng beyond open ideas and true anecdotal testimony to help newer pilgrims to accept this is a place of tolerant listening, discerning responses, and orthodoxy/orthopraxis as realised for real in real life and places in real time.
    I'm tired that we seem to confuse communion with cannibalism. I cite as evidence the absolutely ridiculous notion of confusing the system of neumes for chant with the apparent reality that standard notation for polyphony is systematically ideal. It is pedantic and esoteric beyond recognition, or in military terms FUBAR.
    Stop being experts (the suit with a briefcase who lives more than fifty miles away from your audience) and try being genuinely helpful without condescension.
    Flame away, I don't give a rip anymore.
  • kenstb
    Posts: 358
    Melo, I am not sure from rereading this thread exactly what bothered you. However, I do know what the abbreviation you used stands for and I don't think that this is the place to introduce that kind of language even if it isn't overt.
    Thanked by 1Spriggo
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,286
    melo:

    You must realize that this is a (THE?) forum where Roman Catholic musicians gather and share their experience, knowledge, insight, revelation, life of hard work and dedication to their craft. That being said, I believe it is a given that we stand for and practice the very absolutes that accompany the RC faith, in the fullness of its tradition, and we are on fire to carry that torch forward through these days of darkened confusion, when so much of our absolutes are cast aside, dismissed, ignored or put down.

    You are free to share your opinion as is everyone who visits here. However, we who dwell here day in and day out (in general) try to mine out and reveal the gems of our faith and musical praxis which IS rooted in the Latin Rite, so our opinions and theology, and theory will naturally resound with those principles as a result.

    We cannot stop being who we are. I personally do not view myself as an 'expert' as much as one who has learned to be true to self as I am aligned with my faith tradition. I hope this helps your discomfort in some way.
  • a1437053a1437053
    Posts: 198
    Thank you for all of your responses so far.

    As I stated in my questions, the purpose (for me in my idealism) is to create a small, basic children's program for simple sacred music at Mass. I think many of the responses that advocated for modern notation assume a beautiful and sacred music education program. And when I send my daughter to the Pueri Cantores, she should definitely sing sacred music at Mass and read modern notation.

    But at the heart of what I agree with most is the idea that Catholics created neumes for unison chant, for the Mass. That whole, sacred "words with wings" thing. Chanting priests with increasing levels of solemnity that is second nature to the way we do things as Catholics. A chanting ethos that doesn't scare people away because the Missal and Proper chants can and should be easier for full and active participation.

    - - - - - - - -

    In our program's fantasy future growth, there should come a point when people begin to ask us to teach more complex, beautiful sacred music. Or parents who desire their children to become vocal or instrument musicians. In my imagination, I see our program directing them to other groups, or even better, starting a secondary, more advanced group where square note reading is assumed, but modern notation is taught and fostered. Where musical education is the primary purpose, with or without liturgical service. Where they sing polyphony at Mass or become orchestra members in their local secular programs.

    But I see a program that teaches the bare minimum by design. Because with the Simplex or Illuminare's publications, that is all that's needed, right? Voices that can stay on pitch with many repeated, spoken/chanted notes?

    - - - - - - - -

    We now have tools in English (and have had tools in Latin) that provide an approach to option 1.

    So with enough of these very basic neume programs, producing basic neumed Catholic chanters, will we not be raising up a group that could take over the music where there is none today? (At my parish, it was difficult to find music for the earliest English Masses; and there is none in daily English Masses.) It occurred to me that those "quiet" Masses might be the easiest places to start.

    It seems to me that while the Graduale remains out of reach, we could continue to focus on "The Propers" with an intensity that would continue to bring them to light. So that we could ask for "The Propers", like they ask for a Teen Mass, like they ask for the "Praise and Worship" Mass.

    As a catechist, I've worked hard to bring Catholics home. But when I invite them to Mass, there are more distracting options in my community and I find myself always scurrying about like an ecclesiastical scavenger, hoping they aren't distracted by noise of the Novus Ordo or confused by the full immersion into The Ages.

    One day, may there be at least one Mass in every parish, with an attempt at something close to option 1.
    Thanked by 2ryand Jenny
  • a1437053a1437053
    Posts: 198
    P.S. I'm all for using modern notation Propers, which have been around for even longer.

    P.S.S. I would like to aim for ideals, knowing I'm going to fall short. And I appreciate the various points of view presented by so many people with different situations and experiences. The search button is a beautiful thing, because all newbie pilgrims can seek what they find. That's how I learned so much, from reading YOU ALL bicker nuance. =)
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,114
    Of course singers need to know both. I think the main discussion is about singing chant from modern notation, not the merits of modern notation as a tool in and of itself.
  • a1437053a1437053
    Posts: 198
    This IS about the merits of modern and neume notation as tools in and of themselves.
  • ryandryand
    Posts: 1,575
    tools


    This is the key word.

    Music is aural, not visual, after all.

    So - whatever works.
    Thanked by 1ZacPB189
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,082
    Everything we post here is not solely for the benefit of newbies. We learn from each other and discuss various aspects of music. I see nothing wrong with that. I learn something here if not every day, maybe at least every other day. ;-) We can't all do things the same in practice because the places where we work all have their individual differences, not to mention their different administrations. Our discussions are good and I see nothing wrong with them.
  • bonniebede
    Posts: 752
    As someone who came to this site as a newbie, I have to say I am not put off by some of the more abstruse arguments, sometimes I learn from them, sometimes I laugh at them, sometimes I ignore them as being over my head. I have never posted a request for help which has not been met with some helpful and charitable response.
    I appreciate the dilemma of teaching children neumes/modern notation. In my little schola we only learn neumes, for the following reasons:
    1. the end goal is to raise up singers who can sing the propers and ordinary of the mass - and that is printed in neumes (graduale etc)
    2. Kids can learn anything. Neumes are no more problematic than learning to read or count or any other of the million new things they learn all the time.
    3. Some kids are already learning modern notation as they learn an instrument. Neumes puts all the kids on an equal footing, as it is new to all. I notice the kids who have other musical experience seem to have little difficulty noticing the similarity between the two systems (notes that go up and down, line space interval etc). Occasionally I point out similarities and difference to them (four line stave instead of five) and the dot doing something different in neumes than in modern notation. None of their heads have exploded due to excess knowledge yet.
    And here is the problem I have encountered - in bringing some of my kids to a pueri cantores day, the music we were given was all in modern notation, even those pieces of latin chant. So I do have a dilemma. But I have resolved it thus wise: 1. we sang our chant from our own music using neumes where there was overlap of common pieces. 2. The more complicated pieces of Mozart etc which should be in modern notation, we were not able to do more than sing along to, so I was happy enough that they would have the words from the sheet music and pick it up by ear. 3 We won't be changing our schola to learn pieces of such quality, that is being driven by a much more well established choir, directed by the country's leading choir director, but it is fun for our kids to go along, and it gives them a taste of what is possible for them personally, even if it is beyond the scope of our humbler parish programme.
    My schola is for 6-9 year olds, if I was to have a hope for the long term, it would be that when they graduate they would go on to develop more skills, learning modern notation and developing a choral repertoire of sacred music, alongside their love of and competence in chant.
    In the words of one of my favourite songs - you've got to have a dream, if you don't have dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?
  • noel jones, aagonoel jones, aago
    Posts: 6,538
    Anyone who cannot read chant and understand it is at a disadvantage - at this point in the USA students are being taught to print and not write cursive, giving us generations of people who cannot easily read letters of their ancestors, sensing from the cursive whether the letter comes from a man or a woman, understanding quite a bit about that person from their handwriting.

    With modern music there is so much to learn that many never understand the simplicity behind it - two groups of four notes stacked on top of each other and, looking towards the future, one flat, altering the basic form.

    All western music evolved from this. BonnieBede, your 6-9 year olds are like children who grow up in a bilingual family, children who switch from one langue to another mid sentence. They will be better for it. Do not give up.

    For them discovering the intricacies of modern notation will be stronger and more meaningful experiences, since they know where they come from and what they alter.

    People who grew up and were taught to draw with 8 in the box crayons appreciate the additional colors in the 64 crayon box more than those who are just given a 64 box of crayons and paper and sat on the floor and ignored.

    Teaching from a newbie who loves what she has learned enough to teach it to future generations is a holy act.
  • mahrt
    Posts: 510
    The neumes reflect an attitude to the text: no more than one syllable to a neume. A medieval writer said that a neume represents a single stroke of the breath, i.e., a single gesture to a syllable. If you sing each note of the neume as an independent note, you have missed an important aspect of the neumes. This isn't conveyed well by the other notations.

    I have always used the neumes for my choir, and my experience is that after a month, singers will agree that the neumes are better.

    I was surprised, though, when we set about to make a handout for the congregation with the melodies for the ordinary, I thought modern notation might be easier for them; those making the leaflets insisted upon the square notes. We have used those for about 40 years, and congregation members sometimes attest that for them the neumes are easier.
  • Neumes, and for the reason that Prof. Mahrt says above.

    Regarding anecdotal accounts,

    I've taught children chant for ten years now, all with square notation, and they get it without complaint.



    For increased legato and familiarity, my unabashed idealistic hope is that:

    1) much of the chant can become memorized, at least as a group (this is happening with several of our choristers) and,

    2) people sing very familiar chants from manuscript notation, which I think conveys more fluidity than square notation (currently possible with a few cantors)
  • Ralph BednarzRalph Bednarz
    Posts: 473
    Neumes. I even transcribe OCP's "missalette's" chants to neumes. Although I do like the barred eighth notes as clear indicators of ictic groupings or graphic separation. Any modern notation beyond an eighth note or a dot can distract from developing good sense of chants' rythmn. And this can be achieved by rote.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    I don't know, Ralph, whether it was ICEL or OCP, (if ICEL, what was Ruff thinking?) but what's with the double barlines between "We praise You//We adore You//We glorify You//?
    That's just plain dumb.
  • I thought the LU had the double barlines as well. Could it be because some traditions sing those phrases antiphonally?
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,114
    Yes, in the gregorian original there are double barlines. The ICEL adaptation is simply being faithful to the original in that regard.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Ah ha, I'm so dumb!
    However, in my defense, as the ICEL Glory technically is NOT Gregorian Chant, it seems very counter-intuitive to have those double barlines when I'm reasonably sure it was meant to not be sung in alternatim. And if it was, then USCCB and ICEL should have crafted and noted a protocol in all Missals, doncha think?
  • PhatFlute
    Posts: 219
    There must be a way to combine neums and notes.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Phil, I have some vague recollection of just such an effort. The fact that it is a memory is proof to me of the impossibility of such a hybrid combination.
    Everyone of the much more distinguished and knowledgeable folks who've spoken that neumes enables a more fluent and comprehensible performance is correct.
    I suggest you start with Bartlett's Simple English Propers, and in short time you'll get the basics, trust me.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,286
    PhatFlutePhatFlute 8:04AM Thanks
    Posts: 41
    There must be a way to combine neums and notes.

    http://romancatholicsacredmusic.com/seehear/koHyChaNo.pdf

    PhatFlute

    This is how to maintain the excellence of chant notation with accompaniment in modern notation. Best of both worlds.
  • Chris_McAvoyChris_McAvoy
    Posts: 373
    The only people that have a problem with neumes in my experience, are older very experienced professional muscians/singers who are perhaps so well versed in modern notation that they are refuse to have an open mind and accept how easy it is to learn neumes.

    Children have an open mind and usually can not read any notation, so with them almost always neumes is the best option.

    I think all of us forum members commenting are mostly saying the same things in agreement with each other.
    Thanked by 1francis
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Nein, aber die Deutschen sind einen kunstlichen Menschen!

    To further explain to Phil and others, back in 07 I started taking Rice's Communio (Latin) antiphons and doing a Bruce Ford on them via Finale. At the time it worked quite well transitionally for my choristers. However, post SEP era, I look at those scores and I find them very difficult to render with as much coherency by comparison to neumatic scores. Further proof is that (as I've mentioned that we sight read the SEP's on Sundays at the contemporary ensemble Mass) I don't even have to use chironomy or conduct our little ensemble of fluent neume singers. It is so natural to be in synch with neumes by comparison to modern notation. To bolster that further, I'll even cite the opposite classic canard of standard notation: the infamous double dots of "Be not afraid." Volumes of useless argumentation over their interpretation have wasted a lot of energy. That doen't happen with "standard,' working neumes unless you're prone to the great semiology wars.
    Thanked by 1ZacPB189
  • PhatFlute
    Posts: 219
    Francis, is this a joke? Ha, ha. This makes no sense to me.
    I have changed my mind once again.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,463
    I must admit that I have great difficulty reading chant from modern-notation : The only reason why I never adopted Bruce Ford's American Gradual - other than that, I would've in a heart-beat. (So it was SEP, LCG, Fr. Weber, and Palmer-Burgess for me.)
    Thanked by 1francis
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,884
    Ach, Melo, I'm craving that jelly doughnut. Did Hobbes really say "the Germans are an artificial man"?
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,286
    PhatFlute:

    No, not a joke at all. It is for organists who accompany chant and for chanters who sing to an organ accompaniment, reserving the best notation for both worlds. Completely serious, dude.
    214 x 287 - 51K
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,114
    Francis, do you currently have any volumes of chant accompaniment published with that method?
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Good Sir Richard of Richmond, my German is notoriously bad, but I do it from my addled 63 year old decaying brain. I meant to say they are an artistic, or crafty people, but chose to use "Menschen" instead of Leuten. Shoot me now, take my wife please, I'm here all week, please! Badaboom.
    Backing outta da room slowly, humming "Sing to the ceiling, sing to the floor. Sing to the windows, then sing some more."
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,286
    Ben:

    I do not. I absolutely love the NOH, but if you are not intimately familiar with the GC, the proper execution of such can get slaughtered in a sight reading of such. I would LOVE to put the entire PBC out in this method but I don't work for free, nor do I have the wherewithall to put an investment up front at this point in time.